The White House ordered some employees to work from home and those who came to work to wear masks except when sitting at their desks an appropriate distance from their colleagues. Just as Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence were being tested every day, those coming into proximity to them were subject to daily tests as well, while other White House employees had tests every several days. But those protocols were soon relaxed and most White House officials were rarely seen wearing masks, at least when the president was present.
While the coronavirus is much deadlier than the flu, the vast majority of people infected by it recover, especially if there is no underlying condition, but the threat climbs with age. If Mr. Trump becomes symptomatic, it could take him weeks to recover.
Under the 25th Amendment, a medically incapacitated president has the option of temporarily transferring power to the vice president and can reclaim his authority whenever he deems himself fit for duty.
Since the amendment was ratified in 1967, presidents have done so only three times. In 1985, President Ronald Reagan underwent a colonoscopy and briefly turned over power to Vice President George Bush, although he did not explicitly cite the amendment in doing so. President George W. Bush did invoke the amendment twice in temporarily turning over power to Vice President Dick Cheney during colonoscopies in 2002 and 2007.
Under the Presidential Succession Act, if both Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence were unable to serve, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California would step in. In the spring, the White House said that it had no plan for such an eventuality. “That’s not even something that we’re addressing,” said Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary. “We’re keeping the president healthy. We’re keeping the vice president healthy and, you know, they’re healthy at this moment and they’ll continue to be.”
There is a long history of presidents falling seriously ill while in office, including some afflicted during epidemics. George Washington was feared close to death amid an influenza epidemic during his second year, while Woodrow Wilson became sick during Paris peace talks after World War I with what some specialists and historians believe was the influenza that ravaged the world from 1918 through 1920.
Four presidents have died in office of natural causes: William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Warren G. Harding and Franklin D. Roosevelt, while Wilson endured a debilitating stroke and Dwight D. Eisenhower had a heart attack in his first term and a stroke in his second. Four others were assassinated in office: Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield, William McKinley and John F. Kennedy.